The pumpkin seed fish is a gorgeous, vibrant sunfish speckled with bits of orange, yellows, and iridescent blues. Its body shape, shaped like a pumpkin seed, inspired its catchy name.
Many anglers would argue that the colors and patterns of a pumpkinseed are the most beautiful of all the sunfish species. Some would go as far as to say they are the most beautiful freshwater fish in North America!
Read on to learn everything you ever wanted and needed to know about the pumpkinseed fish.
What Kind of Fish is a Pumpkin Seed?
The pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus) is a member of the sunfish family, and a very common panfish native to North America.
Originally found in the north-central and the northeastern United States, they have now been introduced in many parts of the western and southern United States and portions of Europe.
Pumpkinseed thrive in freshwater lakes, bays, streams, and creeks. They prefer vegetation and structure, and therefore are very common along the shorelines and seldom found in open water.
Pumpkinseed are insectivores, and insects are the primary food source in their diet.
However, they will also feed on small mollusks, snails, baitfish, and even fish eggs.
When water temperatures reach 68 degrees Fahrenheit, males and females will seek out sand & fine gravel bottom to build a nest.
This is usually in water 10 inches to 2 feet deep where eggs and fry are closely guarded.
This usually takes place during the spring and summer seasons, when the fish are very active and aggressive. A great time for fishermen!
What is the Difference Between a Bluegill and a Pumpkinseed?
Although they are both members of the sunfish family, the bluegill and pumpkin seed fish are different in both size and appearance.
The pumpkinseed grows to a maximum size of 8-9 inches, whereas bluegill can reach up to 12 inches in length.
One feature that is very easy to distinguish is the red crescent on the opercular (ear flap) on a pumpkinseed. Bluegill do not have any red marking on the operculum flap.
Hybrid sunfish do occur in the wild, and that’s where identifying can be tricky.
If you caught a suspected hybrid, take pictures, especially of the dorsal fins and gill plate area, and send them to your local fisheries biologist’s office for proper ID.
What Do Pumpkinseed Fish Eat?
Pumpkinseed eat primarily insects, which may include water spiders, dragonflies, crickets, grasshoppers, and various aquatic insect larvae.
They will also feed on tadpoles, small baitfish, fish eggs, snails, mollusks, minnows, worms, and sometimes aquatic vegetation.
How Do You catch a Pumpkinseed Sunfish?
Pumpkinseed are a favorite among anglers because of their willingness to bite both lures and live bait.
The best time to target pumpkinseed sunfish is during the spawning season. Look for small 1-2 foot round impressions in sand or gravel.
Cast out a cricket, worm, or throw a small 1/64th ounce jig on a #10 hook.
Pumpkinseed are not difficult to catch, the trick is to locate them in the lake or pond in your area. Once you find them, experiment with different lures and baits.
Pumpkinseed fish have very small mouths, so keep your lures and baits small (crickets, grubs, and worms work great as live bait!)
Use ultralight tackle such as 2-4 lb test line and a size 10 panfish hook. If the water is murky or stained, add a small bobber to your line as a bite indicator.
Fishing for pumpkinseeds is a great way to introduce kids to the world of fishing.
They are plentiful, very active during the warm months and provide a lot of action!
Where Can I Catch a Pumpkinseed Sunfish?
To find Pumpkinseed sunfish ask your local bait and tackle shop if they know of any lakes or ponds in your area with a pumpkinseed fish population.
Check on google earth, and look for small shallow lakes, ponds, or tranquil creeks nearby.
With a little bit of work and scouting, you will more than likely find a ‘pumpkinseed hole’. Remember they like weeds and vegetation.
Look close around the shoreline edges and near logs, stumps, and down trees. Wear a pair of polarized sunglasses and look for small panfish congregating around edges.
Cast out and see what bites! You might catch a green sunfish, bluegill, redear sunfish, or a pumpkinseed!
Part of the fun is learning all about these fantastic fish and their unique differences.
Pumpkinseed Fishing Lures
‘Pumpkinseed’ is a popular pattern in this fishing lure industry.
It usually consists of blue, green, and yellow mosaic patterns to imitate the colors of a pumpkinseed sunfish.
This is because many species of predatory fish eat pumpkinseed, including largemouth bass, walleye, pike, and even flathead catfish.
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How Big Do Pumpkinseed Get?
The average size of a pumpkinseed is 5″ to 6″ inches. An 8″ or 1/2 pound fish would be considered a trophy size.
The world record Pumpkinseed Sunfish weighed 1 pound 8 ounces and was caught in Honeoye, New York, USA on May 23rd, 2016.
Can You Eat Pumpkinseed Fish?
Yes, you can eat pumpkinseed sunfish. The meat is mild and flaky, and although the fillets are smaller than other panfish species, they are very good to eat.
Here are 3 of our favorite low-calorie panfish recipes.
Pumpkinseed Fish Aquarium
Due to their stunning colors and pattern, Pumpkinseed are often sought after as specimens in freshwater aquariums.
These fish are usually caught in the wild and transported to DIY aquariums.
Note: Always check with your state’s fish and wildlife agency on the laws and regulations regarding catching game fish.
Despite their small size, pumpkinseed can be somewhat aggressive in a tank setting if you’re not careful.
Be sure to give them plenty of room (at least 15 gallons per fish) and avoid putting two males together.
They will compete with other sunfish such as bluegill and can get very ‘picky’ when it comes to tankmates and feed time.
Always observe the behavior of your fish so they are not put into stressful situations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Pumpkinseed Fish Good To Eat?
Yes, pumpkinseed fish are great to eat! Although they are small, they are often cooked whole and great for fish fries.
What Does Pumpkinseed Fish Taste Like?
Pumpkinseed fish have a sweet light and flaky flavor.
Is Pumpkinseed Sunfish Invasive?
Pumpkinseed fish are a unique and native species of sunfish to North America. You don’t need to venture to exotic locations to find these tropical-looking fish.
They are often considered a nuisance species due to their competitive nature and ability to negatively impact native species in their habitat…but they are native!
Is Pumpkinseed Fish Same As Sunfish?
Pumpkinfish are a species of sunfish, that belong to the larger panfish family. They are often confused with younger bluegill.
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